Education Laws Amendment Bill & Higher Education Amendment Bill: consideration

Basic Education

25 August 2003
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE MEETING

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE MEETING
26 August 2003
Education Laws Amendment Bill and Higher Education Amendment Bill: informal consideration

Chairperson: Prof S Mayatula

Documents handed out:
Higher Education Amendment Bill (B36-2003)
Education Laws Amendment Bill (B38-2003)

SUMMARY
The Committee asked for clarity on some of the contents of the Higher Education Amendment Bill. Members of the ACDP and the DA disagreed strongly about whether the Education Laws Amendment Bill differed substantially from the previous draft and whether the current amendments were substantial enough to warrant another round of public hearings. This would delay the committee's programme that had scheduled formal consideration of the Bill for 9 September.

MINUTES

Higher Education Amendment Bill
Advocate Boshoff and Ms Naseema Badsha responded to requests for clarification as follows:
In clause 1, "annual report" is substituted with "reports" because the requirement to furnish annual reports is covered in section 19 of the higher Education Act and in the regulations concerning public entities.
The difference between "a national institute for higher education" and a "board" mentioned in clause 3 (38 a & b) is that the board has broad oversight regarding deployment of the province's resources in meeting the needs of the region's population and is a heuristic person for the national institutes. The Bill provides for the establishment of national institutes in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape because there are no higher education institutions in these provinces. "Province" and "region" are not used interchangeably - the national institutes should co-ordinate the provision of higher education in the region by co-ordinating the programme offerings of the province's institutions. The institution might be within a provincial border but be well placed to serve the needs of the population of an adjoining province.
Nominations to the board mentioned in clause 3 (38C 3) were prescribed in terms of regulations issued by the Minister of Education.
The Chairperson and members of the Board hold office for "a renewable period of four years" i.e. indefinitely. The ordinary members' appointment to the board is concurrent with their employment at the higher education institutions.

There was a brief discussion about the curtailment of the period of office of the co-opted members but Mr WP Doman (Democratic Alliance) was persuaded that the concept of lifetime office was adequately addressed in other unspecified legislation.

Education Laws Amendment Bill
Mr Doman proposed that further public hearings from bodies with a relationship with the Department be arranged as subsections 2,3,4,7 and 10 of clause 2 were added since the hearings. The processes outlined had not been tested and School Governing Bodies (SGBs) and education departments might not be able to apply it. It was in any event too late for the Bill to be applicable in 2004. Decision-making powers should continue to reside with SGBs instead of with the Department.

Prof Mayatula said this proposed change was minor but that asking for another public hearing implied more important problems with the Bill.

Mr Doman said that the Department had dealt with public comments by applying a new process. If this new process was scrapped and SGBs were given guidelines on remunerating state employees, there would be no need for public hearings.

Prof Mayatula asked him for the origin of the concerns expressed - his party or the file collated from the public responses. Mr Doman said that the DA had expressed the need for public comment. Ms C Dudley (ACDP) said that the ACDP also wished for further public hearings to consider the additions. The Chair said that the next meeting was scheduled for formal consideration of the Bill. Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) said that the amendments did not interfere with SGBs but were intended to ensure that "we do not go back to apartheid when they were above the law". Mr Doman insisted that the amendments constituted a new process and that SGBs' opinions be canvassed on them.

Prof Mayatula said that the correct procedure would be for Mr Doman to relate his concerns to the file of public comments because the additions did not reduce SGBs' power; they merely addressed the need for the Department to know educators' salaries. Ms M Mentor (ANC) said that the Committee was being "pushed to discuss the spirit and letter of the law because to [Mr Doman], SGBs were synonymous with the public" and his concern was with power. He had, she said, not mentioned learners. The meeting was intended to consider the Bill informally. The Chair said that he was trying to "push the small party to relate concerns to the document on public hearings and not to bulldoze them." He said that the Employment of Educators Act already made rulings about educators' remuneration.

Mr R Ntuli (DA) said that the DA was not against the Bill as it improved previous legislation and streamlined the process but the file of public comments had only been received on 21 August and there had been insufficient time to scrutinise it. Mr Doman said that the legislation was flawed in that it took power away from SGBs and gave it to the Department.

The Chair requested that he propose amendments. Prof SS Ripinga (ANC) said that it was all very well for the chair to take into account the views of small parties, but more important to consider the majority, who were in favour of continuing with informal consideration of the Bill. His colleague agreed with him because at the previous meeting, the committee had agreed to read the submissions and to check whether the new Bill addressed them. The meeting then returned to this, clause by clause.

The Chair noted that the long title changed if subsections did.

Regarding clause 1(b), it was agreed that there was no need to specify that union representatives should be from different unions because this had not caused problems in the past and the number of unions could change again.

Ms Mentor requested that "the extension may not exceed two years" be inserted at the end of clause 1(c) that was concerned with the SA Qualifications Act.

Ms Dudley proposed that clause 2: 38A (1) be changed to read that SGBs may pay (as opposed to not pay) and that section 38A (3) be changed to say that decisions should be based on the criteria listed in 38A (7). Decisions about state employee remuneration should thus lie with the SGB and the relevant factors in applications for additional remuneration should be given to SGBs for their guidelines so that they could refer the decison back to parents, thus ensuring accountability and transparency. (She promised to make the exact wording available to the committee later that day.) The ACDP had mandated her to request a further public hearing.

Advocate Boshoff said that focusing on transparency and accountability from the parents' perspective did not take into account systematising a process of utilising state resources. The Department did not need only to be informed of SGBs' decisions as the decision might impinge on the Department's relationship with its employee. Ms Dudley then suggested that the Department should have the right and duty to assess and advise the SGB but stressed that the decision-making power should reside with the SGB. Mr Doman agreed and said that applications for extra payment were already covered in the Employment of Educators Act and that the Bill "tells SGBs what to do with their money". Advocate Boshoff said that the process outlined in the Bill was not new, and that although the issue was dealt with in the Employment of Educators Act, this had been ineffectual. Problems persisted in ex Model-C schools and that this legislation was intended to "tie up loopholes" in that Act. Mr Doman said that once SGBs had to apply to the Department, their powers were taken away and given to Department officials. Prof Mayatula asked why SGBs should make decisions about state employees. Ms Dudley said it was incorrect for him to talk about educators as "our employees" as they were paid for out of citizen's taxes and school fees for citizen's schools.

The Chair suggested that proposed amendments be circulated in written form and considered at the next meeting. There was a discussion on whether the next meeting should continue with informal consideration but the Chair decided that all parties had had sufficient time to check the amendments. Ten minutes of the next meeting would be devoted to informal consideration, after which the committee would move to formal consideration.

The meeting was adjourned.

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